Kingsman: The Golden Circle

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ has a lot to live up to. Like most sequels, it has to have the essence of what made the first so good and yet do its own thing. That isn’t an easy thing to do as the myriad of failed sequels attest. It’s all to do with how the story advances established characters whilst maintaining their charm which appealed to audiences. Having the same type of stunning action and focussed direction, ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ is a fair follow-up to the previous blockbuster.

Galahad (Taron Egerton) is young secret agent for the Kingsman spy network. When its British headquarters are destroyed by a mysterious organisation called The Golden Circle, Galahad aims to find the culprits. He follows the trail to Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) the deadly Golden Circle chief. Needing help against the wicked agency, Galahad has help from Harry (Colin Firth) and Merlin (Mark Strong). Together they blast their way around the world to eradicate evil-doers in fine British style.

It can’t be said ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ doesn’t go all out to entertain. It does in spades with a myriad of gravity-defying action sequences upping the fun factor. The performers are all having a great time as well as spouting the silly comic-book style dialogue. Matthew Vaughn directs in broad colourful strokes with each high-octane scene looking like a comic panel. The script occasionally feels like it’s working too hard to entertain but it achieves its aim more often than not.

Going against its pluses is a threadbare story and weak villains. As much as Moore tries to be a classic ‘James Bond’-style baddie, she fails. Her character rarely displays the genuine menace such villains should have. Moore deserved better as she’s a wonderful performer as indeed are everyone in the film. They are let down by the over-abundance of CGI-infused spectacle even if what’s on offer looks incredible. The mix of humour and drama works and it provides grand escapism few seem brave enough to tackle these days.

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ may not succeed in besting its forebear but it generally presses the right buttons. It’s rarely dull and is uncompromising in following its wild path. Whether it’s successful enough to warrant a third entry is debatable. But as the James Bond series proves, you can never keep a good secret agent down for too long.

Rating out of 10: 6

American Assassin

Based on Vince Flynn’s successful espionage book series, ‘American Assassin’ is another in a long line of ‘franchise builders’. These movies are designed to create an ongoing series that producers hope audiences will want to see. There have been dozens in recent years with so many making viewers dizzy. ‘American Assassin’ does its best to craft its’ own strong narrative. Fans of the novels should be reasonably pleased as its character-based story glides at a generally thrilling break-neck speed.

After his girlfriend is killed in a terrorist attack, Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) seeks revenge. Enlisted by CIA Deputy Director Irene (Sanaa Lathan) as a black ops recruit, Mitch is put in the care of CIA veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) as his mentor. They investigate a series of attacks on military installations leading them to a mysterious enemy known as Ghost (Taylor Kitsch). Hell bent on starting war in the Middle East, Ghost becomes Mitch and Stan’s prime target if they want to prevent explosive conflict.

‘American Assassin’ is an agreeable time-waster without being particularly memorable. The plot is derivative of similar films with characters of the stock-standard clichéd variety. What ‘American Assassin’ has going for it are the performances and action. O’Brien makes for an engaging lead with Keaton having a great time as a grizzled spy veteran. They are supported by Michael Cuesta’s solid direction that makes the most of a sometimes obviously limited budget.

Whilst the ingredients are there for a marvellously exciting tale, ‘American Assassin’ often falls short. Whether it’s the confused screenplay or lack of urgent atmosphere, it never rises above the ordinary. It seems afraid to really let go and hit the action targets it needs to in order to conjure pure escapism. The performances of the leads’ co-stars are occasionally weak with dodgy CGI giving ‘American Assassin’ the ‘cheap and cheerful’ look it doesn’t need.

Charting a predictable course where it should carve its own niche, ‘American Assassin’ is less than it should have been. It does a competent job but never stands out from the crowded pack. Hopefully it isn’t yet another failed ‘franchise builder’ as it has more potential than most for cinematic longevity.

Rating out of 10: 6